Sunday, February 2, 2014

Los Angeles and New York City are Ticketing Jaywalkers

New York and Los Angeles are the nation’s two largest cities, linked together by Neil Diamond’s “I am, I said.” LA and New York have little in common. One is the city of cars and the other the city of subways. New York is built up and LA spreads out. LA has the sun and New York blizzards. New York has Broadway and LA Hollywood. LA, greater LA, offers Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios. The New York metropolitan area offers Coney Island and Playland in Rye. They now are both engaged in a campaign against jaywalkers. I understand it in the City of Angels. It is built on cars. Pedestrians are not part of the City’s DNA. You are judged by what you drive, not how many miles you walk. Pedestrians don’t count. Walking is a necessity in New York City, a rarity in LA. Jaywalking is an accepted custom in New York City, the norm, just as the next three cars have the right to go forward as the light turns red. Custom rules on the streets of New York. Custom is reinforced by the hordes of pedestrians competing with the multitudes of cabs, busses, vans, cars, trucks, and bikes on the clogged, often narrow, streets of Manhattan. Vendors cram the sidewalks, often forcing pedestrians into the streets. Jaywalking is natural for New Yorkers. Any sliver of light shining through the traffic is an invitation to “Go for it.” Both LA and New York City agree that jaywalkers are to be ticketed. The LAPD has made a cottage industry of hitting jaywalkers with a $197 ticket. Jaywalking in LA does not necessitate walking across the street. Simply putting your foot in the street before the light turns green is an invitation to the ticket. Tickets are issued even when no visible traffic is on the block. The LAPD can look for crime in the streets or jaywalkers in the street. Ticketing a jaywalker is easier than physically arresting a real criminal. The Police Chief says it’s a “matter of public safety and traffic flow.” If those were the reasons, then the city would not be installing bicycle lanes on many of the major streets in the city. LA should also then ticket the bikers who do not follow the law, but they don’t. Nor would the city be expanding light rail, but it is. Mis-stepping pedestrians are singled out because they don’t “fit” in LA. The LAPD does not discriminate in issuing jaywalking tickets: workers, shoppers, and tourists are all issued tickets. Ethnicity and gender do not seem to play a role. LAPD is an equal opportunity ticketer. The true reason is to raise money for the nearly bankrupt city’s coffers. They ticket jaywalkers because they can. Downtown LA is back, and with it the people having to walk from their office to a parking lot, The ticket potential is a potential goldmine for LA. New York City is concerned about safety. 12 pedestrians were killed in January and 172 in 2013. By way of contrast, New York City, the fabled city of homicides, had reduced them in 2013 to 333. Mayor de Blasio’s goal is to similarly reduce pedestrian deaths with his ten year Vision Zero Campaign, which is also directed against aggressive drivers. New York drivers are aggressive by nature. They are New Yorkers. LA drivers are egocentric. They do not believe pedestrians exist. They don’t know any. Even children are discouraged from walking to school. LA (and Orange County) police do not target aggressive drivers unless they fall victim to a speed trap or DWI checkpoint. Note to Mayor de Blasio and LA Police Chief Charles Beck, not all pedestrian fatalities are jaywalkers. The crazy thing about the ticketing is that I read about the established LAPD policy ticketing of jaywalkers in the New York Times and the new NYPD policy of ticketing jaywalkers in the Los Angeles Times. Go figure.

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